Growing up in Texas, Nathian Shae Rodriguez listened to the late Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla countless times and to him, she was more than her music. Rodriguez saw someone just like himself.
“She gave me an identity in the media and she gave me a person I could be,” he said. “I could listen to Spanish music while also being able to speak English. She existed in this in-between and that’s how I felt.”
Rodriguez, 37, an assistant professor of digital studies at San Diego State University, will teach a new course dedicated to Selena next year.
The Mexican-American singer was shot dead 24 years ago by the president of her fan club just as she was breaking concert attendance records and was poised for a major crossover success. Decades later, her fans continue celebrating her life and she has become even more famous.
Her life and subsequent murder were the subject of a 1997 biographical film “Selena” starring Jennifer Lopez, which has become a cult classic for fans. Selena was honored with a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2017, and more recently, MAC Cosmetics and Forever 21 launched lines inspired by her.
But Rodriguez’s class won’t be all “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” and “Amor Prohibido” – two of her hits. The course will use Selena’s influence over music and fashion to examine Latinx representation in media.
“The class is not about celebrity. It’s about representation, inclusion and giving voices to minorities,” Rodriguez said.
Students will first listen to Selena’s music, Bruno Mars and Cardi B’s renditions of her songs, and even dissect the upcoming Netflix scripted series based on the singer’s life. Then, they will work to identify minority stereotypes, discuss their own identities and talk about what they can do to improve Latino representation once they go into the job field.
“I want to this class to show people (Latinos) that it’s OK to be you and show others that Latinos are not only one specific way,” he said. “We are everywhere and were are doing all sorts of good things.”
Rodriguez said his own experiences, like discussing identity only with his grandmother and seeing the lack of diversity among his college professors, as well as the diverse pool of students at San Diego State University have fueled his desire to launch the course.
“I work with students who are Latinos, DACA, gay, lesbian, transgender, who are journalists,” he said. “I think people have always been interested in Latinx representation, in their cultures and their roots but there wasn’t a space in academia or media.”
San Diego State University students can register for the Spring 2020 “Selena and Latinx representation” course starting November 1.